When it comes to finding a place to stop, it goes without saying personal recommendations are best. However, if you don’t see anyone or the recommended place is booked up here are a few go- to ideas for finding a spot for the night.
This is our first port of call particularly for free camping. It has everything from free sites to 5-star campsites and other useful information e.g. gas refill stations and service dumps.
You just need to be a bit careful as to when the site was added. We are a bit wary of sites where there have been no recent reviews. Regardless of the reviews, if we get to a site and it doesn’t feel right we move on. With this in mind, we’ve stayed in some really dodgy looking car parks and left some much nicer looking ones.
ACSI Camper Card App or Book
If we want a campsite then we look at the ACSI directory and we will often cross-reference the reviews with Park4Night to get a rounded picture.
ACSI caters for a very different market to Park4Night and sometimes the discrepancy in reviews can be hilarious. We stayed an amazing campsite in Portugal which had been rated as 1-star on ACSI and 5-stars on Park4Night and Campercontact. The reason the toilets were cleaned between 11am and 12noon and thats when the poster liked to take her showers. It seemed to escape her notice that she had clean showers in the first place.
From experience, we have found that are very few reviews on the camperstops which at times is annoying particularly in places where the camperstop is not listed on Park4Night.
This was recommended by some motor homers we met in the queue for the ferry to Santander. I believe is particularly popular with the Dutch and Germans. Like Park4Night, it shows a number of different site types but tends to favour paid sites. Generally we only use it if we haven’t found anywhere on Park4Night or ACSI
Blogs and Pinterest
When we first left for Spain, we were completely newbies to free camping. I read a lot of blogs and searched Pinterest avidly for ideas. I mean who knew there was an elephant park in Santander!
Look around you
We were on our way to a free camping spot in Sicily when we spied 3 other motor homes parked up by the beach and went to investigate. We spent the next 4 days there and it’s probably been our best free camping site to date.
Other top tips
Try to arrive mid-afternoon
If you don’t like option 1 or it’s full, you don’t want to be chasing your tail in the dark. We had a day where we had 6 false starts before finding a beautiful site at attempt number 7! Whilst days like this are rare, it pays to be prepared.
Don't be afraid to move
We’ve had two occasions where we’ve moved in the middle of the night; one was due to gale force winds and the other was the because of noise levels. We could have dug our heels in but we would be doing nothing other than compromising our own piece of mind.
On that note, if you get to a site and aren’t sure, whilst it’s lovely to have glass or two of wine at the end of the day, make sure that there is always someone to drive the van should you need to go in an emergency.
Embrace your surroundings
Whether it be a fellow camper, local cafe owner or a dog walker that says hi, say hi back. We have made some of our best friends this way and received some fantastic recommendations. One guy in Gijon wanted to practise his English so Doug made him a coffee and had a chat. In return he gave us 15 recommendations for things to do and places to stop. Most of which we never would have found on our own.
If there is a web-site for a campsite check it. We learnt our lesson after Doug accidentally confused “naturalist” and “naturist”! As I’m typing this I’m still laughing at the horrified look on his face as it dawned on him and he rang up to cancel the booking!